Revolving around the drum kit and sampler of Sam Chown (Zorch,) Shmu is more — or maybe less — than a band, it’s a hypothetical entity.
Imagine, if you will, a recording of live instruments reassembled, through electronic means, into a collage of impossible live performances. Imagine this collage then taken by the author and used as a backing track for a live band. Dissatisfied with the result, the author then disassembles, and reassembles, everything once again.
This is Shmu. Shmu is a project & a person blurring the lines between the two. Rather than scrapping each iteration, Sam Chown (Shmu) recycles. The constant recycling leaves us with something that is at once both familiar and completely unique.
Shmu taught himself a variety of instruments at a very young age. As a multi-disciplinary virtuoso, the Berklee grad has steadily found new ways to combine technical ability with emotional content. Growing from Shmu’s other concurrent project, Zorch, the more sympathetic, shoegazey and psychtronic Shmu expresses the complete spectrum of the human experience. It is joyful, angry, nostalgic, tranquil, manic, and everything in between.
As Shmu, Chown has been home recording home demos since 2003, but didn’t release a proper debut until 2009’s Discipline/Communication (reissued in 2012.) Yet long before it became an official project with a name, Chown would write, record, and catalog songs, playing all he instruments himself. He started at age four, and to date he’s amassed over 200 albums worth of material.
On SHHH!!!! each track exists as its own entity, yet the record stands a cohesive whole. It flows seamlessly, taking on the listened on journey of sound and color. “The intention has always been to express emotion, color and shape in a way that I wasn’t getting from the music I was hearing around me” explains Chown. “I’m also trying to continue the lineage of My Bloody Valentine; there haven’t been many who have explored similar harmonic (and emotional) complexity. I’m trying to creatively reimagine it, with glitchy samples & string sections.”
Chown plays nearly all the instruments on the record, recording, mixing, and re-recording each track multiple times. “I’d record at home, mix at 5th Street Studios with Evan Kleinecke, record some more at home, scrap the whole thing, start from scratch, overdub, remix, etc, Many even contain performances of me playing samples live that are samples of scrapped songs or of other entire songs – I’m performing a performance of a performance” says Chown.
The track “Pictionary’ stands as strong of an example of Chown’s exacting attention to detail, requiring over one hundred “bounces” to perfect. On “Flutes” flautists recorded guided ideas separately, their performance tracked through five different mics hooked up through five different delay pedals on different delay times. “Cut n Paste” is based on a loop written when Chown was fifteen and pulled from the vault for this record.
Overall, SHHH!!!! is an era-less pastiche of seventies psychedelic rock, eighties post punk, nineties dream pop, and modern shoegaze, filtered through Chown’s sampler and spat out the other side over and over again. This distillation process leaves the end result to sound like the last four decades of popular music, compressed and remembered in a hazy dream. “I hope people find it an emotionally compelling work” says Chown, “that’s taking traditional shoegaze elements, and with the utmost respect, progressing them logically to the next step forward.”